[note: the following review was completed using a review copy supplied by seven seas]
First published in 2014 in Dengeki Daioh, and written and drawn by newcomer Seiju Natsumegu, this, the first of a three volume series, introduces us to Sukami Kyouichi, a high school student and trained exorcist who, after a fateful encounter six years prior with a shrine deity leads to his Elder sister and fellow exorcist Sukami Hanaichi being kidnapped by the same deity in exchange for sparing his life, leads him to aspire to both find her and to complete her titular ghost diary – a guide book for the identifying and defeating of supernatural creatures.
We are also introduced to Mangekyou Academy’s Occult club, which comprises our secondary cast for this series – detective wannabe Saeki Yuushirou, resident ventriloquist [via teddy bear] Suzukago Kukuri, Gangsters son and [later on revealed to be computer expert] Onigashima Tatsumi and Kaguyadou Mayumi, who will be our Tusndere/unconfessed love interest for this series.
However Kyouichi’ s life takes a sudden turn when a reaper, Chloe Kowloon, approaches him with an offer – Complete the Ghost diary, and in so doing restore Chloe’s memories, and she will help him find Sukami. Sounds simple on paper – Except from the get go we get the sense that, despite appearances, Chloe has her own agenda for completing the Diary – an agenda that does not bode well for the fate of Kyouichi or his friends in the occult club – and especially Mayumi.
The first thing that struck me immediately about Ghost diary was the art-style – from its backgrounds to character designs I initially thought was that this was something from the pen of the famous manga group CLAMP yet I could find no direct link between them or Natsumegu – whether its one of the group [or a former member] under a pseudonym or just someone who’s style is a near copy of their style we may never know.
Secondly the concept for the series itself does show potential – each episode covers either Kyouichi or one of the club members discovering a legend and, after investigating, either Kyouichi or Chloe dispatch said supernatural antagonist. However we also have that standard trope of many a manga series with more than one female cast member – the love triangle, with Mayumi forever pining [but not admitting to it] for Kyouichi, despite him seeming to have all the perception of mitochondria, whilst shes forever jealous that Chloe, with her impressive built figure, will seduce Kyouichi away – and with a promise of restoring his sister to him who can blame him.
However at the same time there were some flaws that for me at least stuck out notably – for example except for Kyouichi all we really know about the club members is a brief piece of text under their names [for example “Kaguyadou Mayumi Daughter of a makeup mogul”] and that’s it – unless we see more development in the later volumes their sole purpose [going by this volume] seem to be to either offer leads to the main character, get into danger that requires Kyouichi to come and rescue them or just stay in the background.
As I mentioned earlier from the get go it seems that Kyouichi, Mayumi and Chloe will be the main focus, with the rest of the Occult club cast staying in the background as the aforementioned damsels in distress/plot providers – I hope that I am mistaken about this as there is definite potential to develop these characters further [for example its implied early on that Yuushirou, on top of having the hots for Hanaichi, may also have feelings for Mayumi, but has chosen to step aside in favour of Kyouichi].
The volume wraps up with a backstory showing the founding of the Occult club which was largely by the numbers in its execution – it mostly comes down to:
“ Hey, what to join our club?”
And yet, with all this in mind…..I want to wait and see. This first volume, despite all the faults I found with it, nonetheless sets up an interesting story and cast that could in the right hands develop into an engaging and intense series – whether Seiju Natsumegu has those hands….time will tell.
This first volume [of a planned three volume series] is available from Seven seas in physical format from all regular stockists.